Health and Fitness

My random thoughts and findings on health info and news as well as my struggle to get and stay fit (again).  These topics should be relatable for women of any age, and probably some men, too.
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Don't give up (May 2017)

Two years ago I got a Fitbit with the hope that it would help me lose weight. I had been a gym member for many years but the older I got the harder it was to lose weight.  Now 2 years later, I've become much more active and I eat much healthier, but I've only lost about 15 pounds. For a little while this winter I started to give up. It was so tedious to log what I ate every day so I stopped doing that, the shorter days and colder weather made it harder to exercise, I was tired of depriving myself of food that I enjoyed, and overall I started to think that I just couldn't lose much weight.  I have a feeling that a lot of people experience this. But if you give up, you certainly won't lose weight.  If you're okay with that, fine. I'm not. I may not get back to my weight from 15 years ago, but I can at least lose some more. I have so much more confidence when I like the way that I look, and my body feels so much better when I'm active. Most important of all, the sense of accomplishment I get when I hit my daily goal or am #1 in my challenge group makes me feel better about nearly every area of my life.
If you're struggling with losing weight, I highly recommend a few things. One is find other people with the same goals to talk to about it. I enjoy several groups on Fitbit's Community section, you get support and praise as well as tips that have worked for others. I also think having an activity monitor like a Fitbit is potentially life-changing. Not only does it give me a lot of insight into my activity, how many calories I eat, and how I sleep, but it also lets me join group challenges, which are tremendously motivating. It's reminders to get at least 250 steps each hour are great. It's so easy to get sucked into your computer or TV and forget that you haven't moved for an hour or more.
So if you want to lose weight or even just build muscle, just keep at it. It might take longer than you'd like, but the benefits will improve your life in so many ways.

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The importance of regular check-ups (Summer 2016)

You know the people who hate going to the doctor? Or the ones who seem to be healthy all of the time?  My mother was the latter. She didn't hate going to the Dr. but she only went if she broke something or something else major. No guidelines for regular check-ups were going to make her go. My sister is the same way. No mammograms, annual pelvic exams, cholesterol checks, etc. I, on the other hand, generally follow the rules and get my annual exams, along with monthly visits to my pain management doctor, and occasional visits to my orthopedist when knees or my back are acting up.  My mother thinks that I go to the doctor too much. I think I'm normal, and thought my Mom should get an occasional check-up. Neither of us was overly concerned when she started feeling nauseous and tired for a few days. A virus of some kind, I thought. She was convinced that she had food poisoning.  She started to feel better after a few days, but then felt sick again, to the point that she finally went to the E.R.  Their diagnosis was chronic leukocytic leukemia and atrial fibrillation and tachycardia (rapid and inconsistent heart beat). They took her via helicopter to another hospital that specialized in cancer.  After a lifetime of no bloodwork or tests of any kind she's had every kind of blood test, an MRI and CT scans, and has been in the hospital more than she's been out.
She is extremely lucky that the leukemia is a type that spreads slowly and is easily treated. It's Stage 3, which tells me she's probably had it for awhile, with no noticeable symptoms.  My Dad was not so lucky. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer in September of 2012, and died from it a year later. His was very aggressive so even though he had surgery to remove his entire bladder, it had already spread throughout his body.  The Dr. told him chemo would allow him to live a little longer with less pain, but it decimated his immune system and his body didn't have the strength to keep fighting off the infections. Because I lived in another state, and he got much worse very quickly, I was never able to say goodbye to him.
So...  do you get regular check-ups? If not you might want to schedule one.  And if you don't feel well, don't brush it off as nothing. You never know what's happening inside your body.

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Do you have a favorite workout DVD or livestream site? (June 28, 2016)

For the days when it's too miserable to be outside, and you can't get to the gym, DVDs or sites like Daily Burn are great. I have had yoga DVDs for years, but I decided to try some general fitness ones. My favorites are Tracy Anderson's The Method Beginner's workout and one from Gaim for Strong Knees. If you have problems with your knees you know how that can hold you back in your workouts.  My left knee has been a problem spot for a few years now, with surgery sometime in my future. I try to follow the Dr's suggestions for things to avoid, but I also think strengthening the muscles that support it and losing weight will help, too.  And the DVD I have has one of the best exercises for strengthening quads that I've ever done.
Tracy Anderson is a legend in L.A. for tough workouts that keep many celebrities in shape, so I thought her beginners DVD should be good.  It's perfect.  Tough enough that I ached all over after the first time I did it, but still doable.  I tried a Jillian Michael's DVD, too, but it had too much jumping which is a no-no for my knee.  Soon I plan to find the next level in Tracy Anderson's Method workout and seeing how I do with that.  It's all working for me, the measurements keep getting smaller and the scale is giving me lower and lower numbers.  It's slow but it's happening.
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The Fitness Journey continues (June 2 2016)

I haven't written much for this blog because I haven't had much time.  I've become so determined to get in shape and lose weight that it's my main focus.  I got over my feelings in the last post, and I've been doing Fitbit challenges every week and sometimes on weekends, too. If someone invites me to a challenge I accept, even when I know that the other participants are 20 - 25 years younger than me.  I never win as in being #1, but I think I'm winning just by being more aware of my activity level.  I've went walking in the rain, the cold, and now (my most dreaded) heat and humidity. For awhile I was steadily losing inches, although not a lot of weight. I figured that my muscles needed to get toned before I lost fat. And that's fine. One of the reasons that I really got back into work outs is because I'm getting older and many people lose muscle mass as they age.  I don't want to be one of them.  I would like to start losing some weight soon, though.  I am losing, but it's so slowly that I get frustrated.  I'm part of a weight loss discussion group on the Fitbit community, and I see others saying "I've lost 20 pounds since January/February/March!"  I'm guessing that most of them are younger than me, so it's easier for them to lose weight.  Menopause is a game-changer, let me tell you! Losing weight, especially around your middle, is almost impossible. But I keep finding out more information about what and what not to eat, so I keep adjusting my diet in hopes that eventually I'll get it figured out.  I've never been one to give up easily!

One thing I have found out is how helpful it is to work out and diet with others.  It makes a huge difference when you know others can see if you're actually doing it.  The Fitbit community has been great in this regard.  Another place that I'm finding inspiration and support is on Instagram.  For years I just posted cute cat snaps or beauty hauls there, but recently I discovered that there is a huge community of fitness trainers, dietary salespeople, and other people on their own fitness and/or health journeys.

If you've been thinking of diving in to the fitness or weight loss journey yourself, I urge you to give it a try. The sense of accomplishment is great, and the health benefits are, too. And of course, there's nothing like loving how you look.  I'm going for strong.
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Do comparisons with other exercisers motivate you or depress you? (Jan 2016)

Since I don't have any friends IRL who are into exercise like I am, I thought I'd try to find some like-minded friends on the fitbit community.  At first I just joined some groups and sent out a few friend requests. None of the people who accepted the requests actually talked to me, though. They just showed up on my dashboard as friends.  It was then that I saw the astronomical number of "steps" that some people accomplish every week. At first it motivated me to do more, but after awhile of trying and always being at the bottom of the group, it started to make me think "whatever".  I didn't quit trying, I just gave up trying to get to the top of the pile.  I have a pretty unique lifestyle which makes it hard to get a chance to exercise. When I do exercise I mix up cardio with weight-lifting, yoga, and pilates, so I don't usually get 10,000 steps a day. I thought maybe if I joined a few "challenges" that I was invited to that it would be a good thing. At first I was in the middle, which is fine with me. I'm not extremely competitive so it doesn't matter to me if I'm #1. But then the weather got bad where I live AND I can't seem to sleep well, so I haven't been able to get to the gym for a week. At this point I feel like saying "I'll just drop out of these challenges until maybe March". I'll still exercise, but at least I won't be embarrassed by my low "step numbers" when I can't.
So what do you think of challenges and competitions with fitness groups?
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Dedication and commitment (Dec. 2015)

I'm going to be optimistic and answer my question that I posed below in the last post.  I'm going to say yes, you can get back in great shape, barring any major physical limitations.  The more active I am, in a careful way, the better I feel.  To explain, if I do certain things for 30 - 60 minutes, like lift boxes or move furniture, my back will start having spasms that stop me in my tracks.  Those are just things that I have to accept I can't do anymore unless I'm willing to be in pain later.  So to get my exercise, I avoid those things, along with running, lunges, squats, and a few other things that I was told to avoid due to my knee (aging is SUCH fun). I lift weights, I do Pilates and Yoga, and I do the Elliptical machine. These things are slowly, slowly working to get me back into the shape that I want to be in. I am very committed. I can't do much exercise at home, so I go to a gym, pretty much every chance I get, unless I'm too tired or sore. There are many nights that I'm tired, it's dark outside, it's cold, etc., and I'd love to just curl up at home. But I don't. I go to the gym.  (Sometimes I go to Starbucks first for caffeine, but I get it done.)
Some nights I'm full of energy and could stay there for 3 hours. Other nights I think I might collapse on the elliptical machine (I don't of course).  On the bad nights I tell myself to do a few more minutes and most of the time that kicks me into gear again.
And I've given up so many foods that I love, that I've eaten my entire life.  But I have a goal of how much weight I want to lose, and those foods put me over my calorie limit far too often. So I do without them.
The weight isn't coming off as quickly as it did 8 years ago, and it takes a little longer for my muscles to recover when I do an extra hard workout.  But it's happening.  So if you're like me and you're wondering if you can do it, I suspect that yes, you can.
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Can women over 50 get back in great shape?

Recently I read an article online that posed the above question, except I think instead of great shape it said the best shape of their life or top shape, something like that. It basically said people over 50 can get in good shape again, but they will never be like they were in their 20's or 30's.  The part about your 20's makes sense, unless of course you were in horrible shape in your 20's.  But I'm hoping the part about your 30's is wrong.  When I first read it I thought, "I guess I should lower my expectations, since I'm over 50 now."  But should I?  I mean, I understand that our bodies wear out, especially joints like knees.  And I know our metabolism slows, believe me, I know that! But if we work out faithfully, and watch what we eat to be as healthy as possible, can't we get as toned as we were in our 30's?  Yes, there may be some fat that just won't go away (that annoying belly fat doesn't seem to budge these days), but can't our muscles get as strong as they used to be?
I don't know, but it seems like they should be able to.  When I was in my 30's I had been working an office job long enough that it was taking a toll on my body. The bottom half of my body got bigger and my thighs looked like an old woman's fat thighs.  For awhile I thought "this is what happens when you're middle-aged, there's nothing that I can do." But then I met a guy, and I hated the idea of him seeing me naked. So I joined a gym, and went every other day faithfully.  In 6 months I was in better shape than I had been since my early 20's.  I was 37 but I sure didn't look it anymore.  When I hit 40, though, my metabolism seemed to screech to a halt.  I went up 2 sizes and I could not lose weight no matter what I did.  Of course I was working an office job still, so I was sitting all day.  I wasn't out of shape, I just had gained weight around the middle and it wouldn't go away.  Once again I thought it was just from being older and I had to accept it.  Then 5 years later I went through an extremely stressful period where I wasn't working, I was going to the gym more, and I lost so much weight that I was back to my 30's weight. There wasn't a bit of extra fat on me, but it wasn't a good way to lose it (extreme stress).  So... all of this makes me wonder.  Is there an age where you just have to accept that you'll never be in as good of shape as before?
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The Fitbit - just do it

Yeah, I know that's a Nike slogan. It doesn't mean that I can't use it, too.  If you've been thinking of getting a Fitbit or other activity monitor to help you get in shape or lose weight, I highly recommend it.  I got my Fitbit after Christmas last year (yay for gift certificates!), and it's been so helpful. Seeing how inactive I was really motivated me to go to the gym more often, and I'm seeing the inches decrease whenever I measure myself.  It feels great to be getting toned again.  (I'm getting rid of those "Hello Helens" if it kills me.)

The Sleep monitor has been a real eye-opener (not literally, though). Now I understand how I can be in bed for 8 hours and still feel tired all day. It's because I'm so restless while I sleep that I don't often get to the deep phases of sleep.  I went to the doctor to check on my sleep apnea, and the first step he suggested was a new CPAP machine.  So I've got a new one which is much more comfortable than the old one, but it hasn't helped my restless sleep problem so I have to see what he suggests next.

The next thing that you can track is what you eat. If you're dedicated you can input what you eat every day and it will total the calories. If your food item is already in their database it finds it, if it's not there you can add it. If you have the details of the nutrition label it will also tell you what percentage of your meals come from fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.  (I'm going to ask them to put total sugar, as well.)

If you want to take the food information one step further, you can tell it how much weight you want to lose, and how fast you want to lose it.  The fitbit takes that information and combines it with what you eat and your activity level and then tells you how many calories you can eat each day.  That was a big revelation to me, too.  I don't eat a lot, so I was surprised how fast the calories add up.  One jelly-filled Krispy Kreme donut is over 300 calories!  :-(  It's not easy to stop eating goodies, but it makes a big difference.  In just 2 weeks I've already lost 3 pounds by monitoring what I eat.  I think I'll finally be able to lose some of the weight that I haven't been able to get rid of for years!

So, if you've been on the fence about getting one AND you have the motivation and self-discipline to exercise and watch what you eat, the Fitbit can be a great tool to help you to be healthier.


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